Pele dead at 82: Tributes pour in across the globe for Brazilian World Cup footballing legend

Pele dead at 82: Tributes pour in across the globe for Brazilian World Cup footballing legend

Tributes have poured in from across the globe to Brazil great Pele following his death at the age of 82.

The three-time World Cup winner, widely considered to be football’s first global superstar, died on Thursday having been in hospital in Sao Paulo since late November.

Pele, widely regarded as the best footballer to have graced the game, was a prodigious scorer of goals, and is credited with 1,281 of them across the length of his career by the official Fifa website.

A tweet from the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) read simply “King Pele”, accompanied by three crown emojis.

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Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo shared an image of the pair together on Instagram with a tribute message.

Translated from Portuguese, the message read: “My deep condolences to all of Brazil, and in particular to the family of Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

In Pictures | Pele

Pele: Netflix (Netflix)
Pele: Netflix (Netflix)
Pele with the World Cup in 2015 (Getty Images)
Pele with the World Cup in 2015 (Getty Images)
Pele wearing his Santos jersey in 1961 (AFP via Getty Images)
Pele wearing his Santos jersey in 1961 (AFP via Getty Images)
Brazil’s Pele is hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates after Brazil won the World Cup final against Italy, 4-1, in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, June 21, 1970 (AP)
Brazil’s Pele is hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates after Brazil won the World Cup final against Italy, 4-1, in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, June 21, 1970 (AP)
Brazilian soccer legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pele cries during his marriage to Brazilian Assiria Seixas Lemos on 30 April 1994 in Recife, Brazi (AFP via Getty Images)
Brazilian soccer legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pele cries during his marriage to Brazilian Assiria Seixas Lemos on 30 April 1994 in Recife, Brazi (AFP via Getty Images)
Pele with the World Cup in Mexico City, 1970. Pele scored the first of his team's goals in the match (Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Pele with the World Cup in Mexico City, 1970. Pele scored the first of his team's goals in the match (Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Brazilian striker Pele (Getty Images)
Brazilian striker Pele (Getty Images)
Brazilian forward Pele dribbles past a defender during a friendly match vs Malmoe in 1960 (AFP/Getty Images)
Brazilian forward Pele dribbles past a defender during a friendly match vs Malmoe in 1960 (AFP/Getty Images)
Pele as a goalkeeper during a training session in 1963 (Getty Images)
Pele as a goalkeeper during a training session in 1963 (Getty Images)
Pele stands by a display to celebrate his 1000th professional goal in 1969 (Getty Images)
Pele stands by a display to celebrate his 1000th professional goal in 1969 (Getty Images)
Pele shoots for goal vs Czechoslovakia in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico (Getty Images)
Pele shoots for goal vs Czechoslovakia in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico (Getty Images)

“A mere "goodbye" to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that the entire football world is currently embracing. An inspiration to so many millions, a reference yesterday, today and forever. The love you always showed me was reciprocated in every moment we shared even from distance. He will never be forgotten and his memory will live forever in each and every one of us football lovers. Rest in peace King Pelé.”

Argentina’s World Cup winner Lionel Messi posted a picture on Instagram of him with Pele with the message: “Rest in peace, @pele.”

Pele had been treated for colon cancer, following surgery to remove a tumour in September 2021, and had required regular medical treatment.

After being admitted back into hospital at the end of November to re-evaluate his cancer treatment, he was diagnosed with a respiratory infection before being moved to palliative care when his body became unresponsive to chemotherapy.

Doctors and nurses at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo made him as comfortable as possible, while his wife, Marcia Aoki, remained by his bedside. He died at 3.27pm Brazilian time on Thursday due to multiple organ failure resulting from his colon cancer, the hospital said in a statement.

His daughter Kely Nascimento has kept fans updated on her father’s condition with regular social media updates from hospital.

On Thursday she posted a picture of what appeared to be Pele’s family’s hands on his body in hospital and wrote: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”

Pele - originally named Edson Arantes do Nascimento - began playing for Santos at the age of 15 and the Brazilian national team a year later, bursting onto the world football scene as a 17-year-old in the 1958 World Cup.

During his international career, he won three World Cups - in 1958, 1962 and 1970 - the only player to achieve this to this day.

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His role in Brazil’s third victory, in Mexico in 1970, has gone down as one of the greatest performances ever, as he played a key role in arguably the sport’s greatest ever international team.

Another modern star of the game, France’s Kylian Mbappe, wrote on Instagram: “The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten. RIP King.”

Pele’s glittering 20-year career from 1957 to 1977 saw him score 757 goals in 831 games, although Santos claim his tally was closer to 1,000.

England World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst tweeted that Pele was the ‘greatest ever’.

He wrote: “I have so many memories of Pele, without doubt the best footballer I ever played against (with Bobby Moore being the best footballer I ever played alongside). For me Pele remains the greatest of all time and I was proud to be on the the pitch with him. RIP Pele and thank you.”

The Wembley Arch has been lit up gold and green, Brazil’s national colours, in tribute.

Gary Lineker tweeted: “Pele has died. The most divine of footballers and joyous of men. He played a game only a few chosen ones have come close to. 3 times he lifted the most coveted gold trophy in that beautiful yellow shirt. He may have left us but he’ll always have footballing immortality. RIP Pele.”

Pele’s Twitter account posted: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today. Love, love and love, forever.”

England’s national football team tweeted: “One of the greatest to have graced the beautiful game.

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“Farewell, Pelé. You will never be forgotten.”

Sadiq Khan, who had met the legend, also tweeted a picture of the pair together.

The Mayor of London wrote: “RIP Pelé. A hero to so many and one of the greatest to ever grace the game.”

Pele score some great goals that are still seen on YouTube compilations to this day and in 2000 Fifa named him and Diego Maradona the two players of the century. He was then, in 2004, charged by Fifa with drawing up a list of the 100 best living footballers as part of the body’s 100 year anniversary - although his list actually came to 125.

And his appeal was seen in sports beyond football, with British distance runner Mo Farah calling him the ‘king’ of football. Former Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt also shared a picture of the pair together.

Pele ended his career with a sold out game in America when he played in a friendly between Santos and New York Cosmos - the US team where he had played out the final three years of his career. He played 45 minutes for both sides and scored a 30-yard free kick, which proved to be his final goal. In a mark of his impact on football, Cosmos attendances dropped after his retirement and the North American Soccer League folded in 1985.

Until a few weeks ago, Pele remained the all time top scorer for the Brazilian men’s national team but his record 77 goals have now been equalled by Neymar - who slotted in against Croatia at the World Cup. But while Neymar needed 124 games to hit the mark, Pele did it in 92.

Brazilian star Neymar made his own tribute to “the king” on Instagram, writing in Portugese: “Before Pelé, 10 was just a number. I’ve read this phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But this sentence, beautiful, is incomplete. I would say before Pelé football was just a sport.

“Pelé has changed it all. He turned football into art, into entertainment He gave voice to the poor, to the blacks and especially: He gave visibility to Brazil. Soccer and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He's gone but his magic remains. Pelé is FOREVER!!”

After retiring, Pele became a Unesco good will ambassador and took on ceremonial positions within Brazil. He was married three times, with Marcia Aoki ​surviving him, and had seven children - with Edinho becoming a professional footballer too, as a goalkeeper in the Brazilian league.

England and Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford wrote: “Rest easy king. The football world has lost an absolute legend!”

Germany great Franz Beckenbauer played with Pele in the late 1970s in the United States at the end of their playing careers.

Beckenbauer, Bayern Munich’s honorary president, wrote on the club’s website: “Today, football lost the greatest man in its history – and I lost a unique friend.

“Born in Tres Coracoes, Pele had three hearts: for football, for his family and for all people. Someone who played with the stars and always stayed down to earth.

“I went to the US in 1977 because I really wanted to play on a team with Pele at New York Cosmos. This time at his side was one of the greatest experiences of my career.

“We became champions together right away, and Pele then just called me his brother. It was an unimaginable honour for me. Football will always belong to you! You will always be here. Thank you for your game, O Rei!”

Pele said of himself: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”